Asbestos and cancer: a cohort followed up to death

Br J Ind Med. 1987 Jun;44(6):396-401. doi: 10.1136/oem.44.6.396.


The mortality experience of 1074 white men who retired from a United States asbestos company during the period 1941-67 and who were exposed to asbestos working as production and maintenance employees for the company is reported to the end of 1980 when 88% of this cohort was known to be dead. As noted in earlier reports the mortality for respiratory and gastrointestinal cancer was raised. A more detailed examination of causes of death shows that the excess in gastrointestinal cancer was largely due to a statistically significant excess in stomach cancer. A statistically significant excess was also noted for kidney cancer, cancer of the eye, and non-malignant respiratory disease. Eight deaths from malignant mesothelioma were observed, two of which were peritoneal. Asbestos exposures for these mesothelioma cases were low relative to other members of the cohort. Continuing follow up of this cohort shows a dose response relation for respiratory cancer that has become increasingly linear. Standardised mortality ratios peaked 10 to 15 years after retirement and were relatively constant at around 250 in each five year interval starting in 1950. This excess might have been detected as early as 1960 but certainly by 1965. The mortality experience of this cohort reflects the ultimate effects of asbestos since nearly all of the cohort has now died.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / etiology
  • Mesothelioma / mortality
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pleural Neoplasms / etiology
  • Pleural Neoplasms / mortality
  • Respiratory Tract Neoplasms / etiology
  • Respiratory Tract Neoplasms / mortality
  • Risk
  • United States


  • Asbestos